Few types of restaurants are as quintessentially American as the fast food chain. Consistent, inexpensive, and reliably delicious, they’re always there for us when we need them, delivering comfort with every bite. But while the mega-chains like McDonald’s, Subway, and Taco Bell may rule the roost, many of the country’s most beloved chains can only be found in certain parts of the country.
It’s hard to imagine it now, but every chain restaurant started out with just one location. For some, expansion and franchising was always a part of the business plan, but for others, it came organically over the decades – though some have deliberately limited their footprint to one portion of the country, or even a single state or city. (These are America’s fastest-expanding restaurant chains.)
Many of these regional chains have built up strong followings and offer menus that would most likely do well in any corner of the country. To assemble a list of regional restaurant chains we wish were national, 24/7 Tempo reviewed lists and appraisals of a wide range of such chains from publications including The Daily Meal, Eat This Not That, Mashed, QSR Magazine, First We Feast, and Delish. (Information on the number of units and regions served came from the chains’ own websites whenever possible, and were otherwise drawn from a variety of business sites. The number of units is approximate. Chains with locations in more than 10 states were omitted.)
Some of the regional chains we’d like to have just around the corner are small, with as few as six locations. Others are comparatively massive, numbering as many as 475 units over numerous states. Some have reputations that have spread nationwide even if the chains themselves have not – perhaps most notably the California-born In-N-Out, so closely associated with the Golden State that many arriving tourists make a pit stop there before checking into their hotel. (Half a dozen of the places on this list, in fact, come from California. Click here to learn about more of the state’s food and drink icons.)
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